Scream is the quintessential horror franchise. For many horror fans, one of the Scream films is their favorite horror movie, the movie that got them into horror, their comfort film, or all the above. Last year, fans got the first Scream film without Wes Craven in the form of a thrilling requel that included our favorite legacy characters as well as some fun new ones. Just a year later, the same team that gave us the requel delivers an all new Scream film for slasher fans to enjoy.
Scream VI was directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin (Scream 2022, Ready or Not) and Tyler Gillett (Scream 2022, Ready or Not) with a screenplay by James Vanderbilt (Scream 2022, Zodiac) and Guy Busick (Scream 2022, Ready or Not). Loosely inspired by Scream 2, this installment kicks off about a year after the previous film, following the young survivors of the latest Woodsboro massacre as they go to college. Now in New York City and trying to get a fresh start on life, the friends are faced with a new Ghostface with a shocking new motive. All the while, the new masked murderer is trying to leave clues that Sam (Melissa Barrera) is the real killer. The Woodsboro survivors must stick together and find out who the new threat is, or it could be their end.
Much like Scream 2022 gave an update on the original Scream‘s plot, Scream VI on the surface seems like a requel of Scream 2. The survivors are off at college, doing their best to move on from the past, but we all know the past never really dies. Yet the filmmakers keep it fresh by switching up the rules. After all, this isn’t your average sequel. As fan-favorite character Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) points out, we’re dealing with a franchise. This allows for some edge-of-your-seat twists, turns, and surprise reveals to keep the audience guessing from start to finish.
One thing this franchise is known for is incorporating a theme that is somehow socially relevant to the times. In the past the films have covered things such as violence in movies, predators in the film industry, the quest for fame, and toxic fandoms. In Scream VI, the focus is online rumors and the darker side of websites like Reddit. The entire time these friends are trying to navigate their new landscape and avoid being mutilated by a masked killer, rumors have circulated that Sam was the true killer in the last massacre and that she framed Ritchie (Jack Quaid) and Amber (Mikey Madison). Her every step is being watched not just by the new killer, but by the general public. Everyone is waiting to find some shred of evidence that she is a murderer, so even when her life is in danger, Sam has to be careful what she allows the public to see. This not only adds to the tension of the film and makes Sam’s journey all the more tragic, but it also speaks to how dangerous unfounded conspiracy theories that spread like wildfire across the internet can really be.
While I loved Scream 2022, one of my biggest issues was that I didn’t feel as connected to the new characters as I had hoped to be. Luckily, Scream VI makes up for that with fantastic character development and delightful performances. Melissa Barrera (Scream 2022, In the Heights) really brought her A-game for this film reprising her role as Sam. She brings such an emotional depth to the character and excels at showing the audience that Sam has the weight of the world on her shoulders. Jenna Ortega (Scream 2022, X) is an absolute joy, as always, returning as Sam’s younger sister Tara. Ortega makes it impossible not to love Tara and relate to her, whether she’s in denial over the impact last year’s events had on her or rallying behind her big sister. Barrera and Ortega really feel like siblings in this film, arguing with each other one moment then going to bat for each other in the next. Then of course we have Jasmin Savoy Brown (Scream 2022, Yellowjackets) and Mason Gooding (Scream 2022, Fall) as the Meeks twins, Mindy and Chad. While fans already loved Brown as Mindy, channeling her uncle as the resident horror expert, we didn’t get to see much of Chad’s personality in the previous film so it was nice to see Gooding get a chance to shine a bit more in this film. Together, the Woodsboro “core four” have fantastic on-screen chemistry, making it easy for fans to feel endeared to these characters and root for them to survive. Other memorable performances come from legacy actors Courtney Cox (from every Scream film) and Hayden Panettiere (Scream 4), as well as newcomers Samara Weaving (Ready or Not) and Dermot Mulroney (Umma). Some of these performances might come across as a bit goofy, but by the time the climax rolls around they all come together in a way that justifies the acting choices.
As with any proper horror sequel, the filmmakers behind Scream VI did not hold back on creating elaborate new set pieces and ramping up the gore. Taking place in New York City allows for some really great production design. Some of the more notable set pieces are the corner bodega, a staple in NYC, and of course the Scream murder museum. The museum is the clear highlight of the film. There is such great attention to detail, utilizing an abandoned movie theater to house all the masks, weapons, and other paraphernalia of the previous murders. It’s not only beautifully done and includes so many small details for fans to discover, but it also makes for a perfect location to showcase carnage and mayhem. Just like the bigger set design, the kills are much bigger and bloodier in this installment of the franchise. There are so many signs just in the murders to show audiences this Ghostface is unlike any we have seen before, often being much more brutal and far more resourceful than their predecessors. The practical effects for these bigger and gorier kills are pure perfection, likely to make even some of the most seasoned horror fanatics a bit squeamish. It’s clear that visually, Scream VI is a horrific work of art.
Scream VI is proof that a horror franchise can still be great even six films in, as long as it’s done by a team who knows and loves the films as much as the fans do. It’s clear the writer and directors did just that, giving honor to the films that came before while still delivering a new and exciting horror film. Everything from the writing to the performances to the creative kills are guaranteed to draw the audience in and hold them by the throat, even all the way through to the very brief end-credit scene (that is quick but memorable, so I recommend sticking around for it). The only real negative thing I can say about this film is that Panettiere’s wig is atrocious. Other than that, Scream VI is a fantastic addition to the Scream franchise that ramps up the brutality and is sure to shake up some fan’s rankings. I also predict this film will be at the top of many best horror of 2023 lists at the end of the year.
OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10